The 2004 American Presidential Elections

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Elections are fascinating – more so the American presidential elections. There is always a feeling of euphoria that comes over me after every presidential election. There is always this bliss, this calm, and the satisfaction of knowing one has just participated in something monumental. This is my third time at the presidential polling stations; and the feeling keeps getting higher and better. To think a simple act of exercising ones inalienable right might change the direction this country goes is simply fascinating. And wherever this country goes, so too will most of the world. At least that has mostly been the case until this election.

This election is different. The stakes are higher. And more than at any time in the history of this republic, the world forcefully voiced its opinion and “interfered” in America’s domestic affair. It was as if the world was telling the American electorates: “the outcome of this election will negatively or positively affect us…so please thread intelligently.” But alas, Americans did not listen to the world.

The world wanted John Forbes Kerry to win. Although not much was known about him, still, he was the preferred candidate. On the other hand, a lot, a whole lot was known about George Bush. Regrettably, what they knew about him was scary and dreadful. What they saw caused sleep paralysis. And the world was not ready to go through another fours years of calamity, pain, and unbridled arrogance. This president, according to world opinion, has been destructive and terribly bad for the world; and has been a source of friction and attrition especially in the last 30-months or so.

No American president, in recent memory is hated and despised as much as President Bush. In comparison, no American president in recent memory is loved, adored and lionised as much as President Bill Clinton. One was a builder; the other a divider.

Clinton is perceived to be soft, likeable, and amenable to different opinions and ideologies. He is perceived to be tolerant, collaborative and cooperative with Europe and other parts of the world. He is perceived to understand the role and place of international organizations, regimes and conventions more so than any other president in the last fifty years or so. His public posture is also so endearing. That he has a good grasp and command of the English language didn’t hurt — add to that his brilliance of mind!

George Bush on the other hand comes across as dumb, brash, hash, condescending, intolerant of others view points. He comes across as a war-monger, and a religious zealot. He comes across as a man who does not care about what the rest of the world thinks of him or of the United States. He comes across as provincial – a man with little education who has been riding on his father’s coattail. He also did not help his own image by surrounding himself with men and women with “awe and shock” mentality, political bigots and intolerant advocates of Christian fundamentalism.

The world community saw all these in President Bush and they shuddered and recoiled in dismay and anger. Furthermore, they witnessed how he rubbished “old Europe,” tore the Kyoto Treaty, belittled and dismissed the United Nations, pre-emptively invaded Iraq, and turned blind-eyes to the real culprits and allowed Israel to run amok and in the process contemptuously waved off UN Resolutions. Israel, a tiny country has now become, in the eyes of the world, a monster!

In short, the world community concluded that President Bush was a danger to world peace and tranquillity and so they wanted a change. However, what the world wanted was not in sync with what the American electorate wanted. The world, as represented by the Daily Mirror of London, wondered aloud: “How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb” as to elect Bush? To this the Americans responded, “Shove it!” In the end, what really matters are the wishes of the American electorate — not the cries, fears and sentiment of the global community. Americans did it their way!

But why did J.F Kerry and John Edwards lose the election? Well, for now, it is too early to tell. Besides, that is a task that’s better left for historians, political science scholars and professional observers of the American society to debate. Even so, I would suggest Kerry and the Democratic Party lost the election because of five or more major issues: (1) the Iraq war and the wider war on terrorism, (2) the gay/lesbian debate and their right to marry, (3) and gun control issues, (4) the laziness and miscalculation of the Democratic Party, and (5) the ever growing presence of the Christian Right who has a firm grip on millions of Americans especially in the southern states.

But most of all, the genius and resilience of President Bush was underrated. The Democrats forgot Bush have always looked up to Winston Churchill and Niccolò Machiavelli. In addition, the Democrats were hoping that the electorates would remember the injustice that was meted out to Al Gore in the 2000 elections. But they were mistaken. This was not to be. After all, according to James Barrett Reston, “An election is a bet on the future, not a popularity test of the past.” This election proved that!

The Republicans are also a power-hungry group of political rascals. Cunning. Duplicitous. They wanted the White House and they got it. They wanted the House of Representative and they got it. They wanted the Senate and they got it. In other words — the Republicans wanted power and they got. They knew what the Democrats didn’t know or fail to acknowledge: Nice guys always finish last in politics.

Politics is about power. As Hedrick Smith in The Power Game (1988) allowed, “…power is the ability to make something happen or to keep it from happening. It can spring from tactical ingenuity and jugular timing, or simply from knowing more than anyone else at the critical moment of decision.” Furthermore, in Florida and in Ohio, the Republicans remembered Josef Stalin’s instructive point: “…The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”

Personally, I am gradually recovering from the huge disappointment and the pain wrought by another missed chance at the White House. It was so sad and so painful! In any case, I just have to lick my wounds, bandage my bleeding heart and graciously accept the people’s verdict, and wait another four years!

Democrats, Republicans and all those in between must accept the verdict of the majority of the electorate. We must accept the result of the elections. And because we accept the verdict, we are committed to upholding the constitution of the United States. We are committed to helping further and foster America’s economic, social and political prosperity. And so we rally around the President in the performance of his duties.

Nothing else matters; nothing but the national security interest of this country. Therefore, beginning November 3, we all reverted back to being Americans — not Democrats and not Republicans. Today, we are all Americans…whether we voted for President George Bush or not. And that is the beauty and the enduring legacy of the American system and of the founding fathers of this great nation.

Norman, Oklahoma

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